17 October 2010

Opposition to woman's leadership of district wanes

Jakarta Post - October 12, 2010

Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh -- Opposition by ulema and councilors in Aceh
to a woman becoming district head is reportedly weakening.

Anisa, who became head of Pelimbang district, Bireun regency on May 21,
2010, said the ulema and councilors had initially opposed her promotion
arguing that it was against Islamic law.

"[Opposition] has declined. Many public figures have come to me and
apologized for their previous resistance," she told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.

Considered a capable and good leader, Anisa was promoted to head of
Pelimbang district by Bireun Regent Nurdin AR. Anisa was previously head of
village administration at the regency, a position that gave her a chance to
work with villagers.

"I covered 609 villages across different districts in Bireun. I never
encountered any problems at the village level while doing my job," she

She added she was disappointed and frustrated by the opposition. "As a
woman I felt I was being treated unfairly. I saw it as an attempt to
restrict women in the community," she said.

Anisa said she had never been deterred by the opposition, which she said
was a result of misinterpreting Islamic law.

Luki, from the Indonesian Women's Coalition of Aceh, blamed flawed
interpretations of Islamic law for the objections raised to female
leadership. "Rejecting women's leadership in Aceh is an ignorant and
outdated form of Islamic sharia interpretation," she said.

According to Luki, there are many examples of the application of Islamic
law with no input from women. Women, she said, were often the victims of
misinterpretation in the application of allegedly Islamic-based

"It's a setback in the application of laws. It's like we're going back to
the stone age, a premodern Islamic age, in which women were not allowed to
lead," Luki said.

Luki said that there were many religious teachings that needed to be
adjusted for the current era. "Banning a woman from becoming a leader is
not practical because election law clearly allows for women's involvement
in politics," she said.

Nurdin said that opposition to female leadership would not stop him from
having female district heads in his regency. "[The rejection] is the work
of a few people who interpret Islamic law incorrectly," he said.

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